• Kyodo

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All Nippon Airways Co. and Lufthansa Cargo AG of Germany will launch a joint air cargo venture on routes between Japan and Europe, the two companies said Wednesday.

They aim to launch shipping services from Japan to Europe this coming winter and from Europe to Japan in mid-2015, the companies said in a press release.

ANA has received approval for the joint service from the transport ministry, while the venture “has been positively assessed by external counsel for compliance with relevant EU antitrust regulations,” the two carriers said.

ANA, a unit of ANA Holdings Inc., and Lufthansa Cargo AG, a subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, both operate regular passenger flights as members of the Star Alliance network.

Meanwhile, Japan Airlines Co. is expected to increase its stake in Hokkaido Air System Co. (HAC) to more than 51 percent from 14.5 percent, most likely next month, taking control of the regional carrier as a subsidiary for the second time.

The Hokkaido Prefectural Government said Tuesday it will sell 3,005 shares in HAC to JAL for ¥31,500 per share around October.

Several other companies in Hokkaido are also known to be planning sales of their stakes — totaling some 3,500 shares — to JAL at around the same time. JAL needs to hold a total of around 6,500 shares to reach 51 percent ownership of the company.

JAL was previously the parent company of HAC, but in March 2011 reduced its stake and pulled out of running the local carrier while it underwent restructuring. HAC stayed in the air as a result of financial assistance from local governments and businesses.

Hokkaido is the biggest shareholder in HAC, holding 36.5 percent of the 17,740 outstanding shares. The planned October share sale is subject to approval by the prefectural assembly when it meets next Tuesday, a prefectural official said.

The Hokkaido government’s share in HAC is expected to drop to 19.53 percent as a result of the sale.

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